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Egypt and Qatar agree to resume diplomatic relations: Cairo

Reuters logo Reuters 1/20/2021
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi wearing a suit and tie: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pays state visit to France © Reuters/POOL Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pays state visit to France

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt and Qatar have agreed to resume diplomatic relations, the Egyptian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The move follows an agreement between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt earlier this month to end their boycott of Qatar - which began in 2017 over allegations it supported terrorism, a charge that Doha denies.

"The Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Qatar exchanged, today, January 20, 2021, two official memoranda, in virtue of which the two countries agreed to resume diplomatic relations," a foreign ministry statement said.

While steps have been taken to rebuild the relationships between Qatar and the three Gulf countries, Egypt is the first to make such a move officially.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said the kingdom expects to reopen its embassy in Qatar within days, and full diplomatic relations between the two would resume.

Egypt reopened its airspace to Qatari flights on Jan. 12 and flights between the two countries have resumed.

The ending of the boycott was one of a series of Middle East deals by the Trump administration aimed at building a united front against Iran.

When the boycott was announced, Egypt and its allies called on Qatar to cut ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, among other demands.

The Islamist group was outlawed in Egypt after then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led the overthrow of the Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi from the presidency in 2013, before being elected president himself the following year.

Much of the group's senior leadership was jailed in Egypt but other members took refuge abroad in Qatar or its regional ally Turkey.

Egypt and the UAE have also found themselves at odds with Turkey and Qatar in Libya, where they have backed opposing factions in a civil conflict.

A Qatari foreign ministry official pledged in a meeting with Egyptian and Emirati security officials on Saturday that Qatar would not interfere in Egypt's internal affairs, two Egyptian intelligence sources told Reuters.

He also pledged a change of orientation for Qatar's al-Jazeera television channel and other state-owned media outlets towards Cairo, the sources said.

They also said that the officials agreed on economic cooperation and a series of meetings on outstanding issues such as Libya and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The officials agreed to restore diplomatic relations between Egypt and Qatar "under probation," as one source put it, and the Qatari official expressed his country's desire to restore normal relations between all five nations, the sources said.

(Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; Editing by Catherine Evans and Giles Elgood)

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